In the first book of ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ there is this highly speculated, reoccurring theme/phrase of being ‘recalled to life.’ As we learn later on in the book, being ‘recalled to life’ is something of an extended metaphor that applies to Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette’s freeing of Dr. Manette (Lucie’s estranged father) from a life of solitude after years of separation and some traumatizing jail time on Dr. Manette’s part.
Anyhow, it got me thinking – especially as throughout the first book, Lorry is contemplating the possible results and outcomes of his ‘recalling’ Manette to life. He thinks up potential conversations with Manette, asking him how long he had been ‘buried alive’ (hence the extended metaphor, what with being ‘recalled to life’), if he wanted to see ‘her’ (Lucie), et cetera. There’s this part that really got to me; the fact that Lorry isn’t sure – both before and even after he actually goes through with recalling Manette to life – that freeing Manette is even a good idea; if Manette even wants to be recalled.
Much as I have difficulty comprehending Dickens’s florid, Ye Olde English-esque syntax, I can appreciate that he touched on a subject (even if that wasn’t his intention). In many stories, there’s a hero who frees some poor wretch from jail or something along the lines of that, but oftentimes the aforementioned wretch’s thoughts on the matter aren’t taken into consideration. I don’t want to get too in-depth into matters like Stockholm Syndrome, but what if the wretch likes their prison? How are you supposed to free someone who loves their captivity?
Maybe ‘like’ and ‘love’ aren’t the proper sort of words to use in this kind of situation. I should say, ‘needs’ or ‘doesn’t know how to function without.’ It’s a sad thing to think, but oftentimes captivity or imprisonment becomes something of a crutch – yes, you’re imprisoned and lonely, but you’re also isolated from the outside world, which, wonderful as it is, is just as equally malicious and dangerous and rife with obstacles both physical and emotional. There’s a reason why Dr. Manette didn’t jump up and start doing a jig when Lorry and Lucie came to take him to England. Other than his obvious mental instability, he’s been isolated for eighteen years – and this time period just about coincides with the French Revolution. Times are changing, and quickly, and it’s not stopping for anyone. A year already is a long time; think of how much the world has changed for Manette after nearly two decades.
The bottom line is, life and freedom aren’t what people hail them as. Frankly, life is tough. It’s hard and painful and a slog in the mud and anyone who tries to romanticize it is just kidding themselves. I’m not saying that life is all doom and gloom, because it most certainly is not; it’s a balance between good and bad (see the previous chiaroscuro post). And sometimes, it swings more one way for one person and the opposite way the next. Living itself is not something that’s good or bad in and of itself – it’s your circumstances; what you make of it. And that is up to you and only you – not your mother, not your grandparents, not your best friend, or that catty girl in the hallway, or that teacher that no one likes, and especially not society.
So don’t preach to others life is worth living, because for some people, it’s not. If it is for you, that’s absolutely wonderful – a blessing, even. But for those who don’t think so, that’s sad, but it’s their choice, and that’s something to absolutely respect, because what’s a world without choice? Communism and tyranny.